Spreading the last of the salt along the bottom of the wall and shaking out the few grains that remained, Bobby folded up the paper sack and breathed a sigh of relief. Removing his cap and wiping his arm across his forehead, he frowned as he looked out along the length of the garden and was sure he saw movement amid the apple trees in the corner.
Pulling his gun from the waist of his jeans and clicking off the safety, he peered amid the trunks and then shook his head slowly. Turning back towards the house, he then yelped in fright as he saw the woman who had seemingly appeared from nowhere. He raised his gun and then paused, studying her calm, dark eyes. And then he saw the large crossbow she held down at her side.
"Mina …?" Bobby guessed, lowering his gun. He watched her nod an affirmative and saw her give a brief smile. "I'm Bobby." He put away his weapon and held out his hand, smiling as she stepped away from the wall and shook his hand.
"Sam is in danger." Mina stated quietly, nodding to the house behind her.
Bobby watched her in interest and slowly took back his hand. "You're really one of them … aren't you?" He saw the confusion in her eyes and smiled a quick apology. "I'm something of a fan." Bobby shrugged and his smile faded, "And I was so sorry to hear about your grandfather."
Mina studied him in uncertainty and then took a step closer.
"He was a good man." Bobby nodded and continued quietly, "I met him once - a long time ago. And it was an honor." He looked into Mina's face and saw the grief that sat beneath her steady gaze. "Tell me … do you still carry the symbol?" Bobby saw sudden fear in her eyes and watched her back away from him warily. He held up his hands and nodded in understanding. "He asked me for the design, Mina. It's a pentagram - a five-pointed star with - "
"This?" Mina offered, tugging her jumper sleeve up over her elbow and showing him the pattern of scarring on the inside of her upper arm.
"Yeah," Bobby sighed in wonder and moved closer to look at the symbol. "He had used every chant and prayer he knew to protect you all and yet still he was worried …" Bobby frowned at the memory and gave a gentle sigh. "He spoke of a great black creature that haunted his dreams. Pure evil, he said it was."
Mina slid her sleeve back down and nodded slowly, fighting back sudden tears. She stepped forward and placed her hand on Bobby's arm. "And it's coming here."
Sam could hear the baby starting to gently cry and instinctively turned to lift him from the high chair. Cradling Thomas against him, he then looked back and watched Carlos smiling quietly.
"How - ?" Sam's throat was tight and he coughed dryly, feeling the child clutching at him and beginning to calm a little.
"Oh please!" The demon within Carlos sniggered suddenly, "You really thought I would fall for such an obvious trap?"
Sam stared at the possessed hunter in dread and could feel his heart thumping against his chest. Holding Thomas tighter against him, for his sake as much as the child's, he backed away slowly.
"I thought the impression of me was rather good, though." The demon continued merrily, then suddenly becoming calm and his expression unreadable. "You know … it hurt to watch you slaughter my friend so mercilessly."
Swallowing back the bile in his throat, Sam edged slowly away and was aware of the kitchen door just a short way behind him.
"Still." The demon shrugged slightly, "I can repay the favor." He held up his hand beside him and smiled at Sam. "Julia!"
Staggering through the doorway and clutching at her throat, Julia looked at Sam and terror filled her reddening face.
"No!" Sam shouted angrily, aware of Thomas flinching and beginning to whimper again. He shook his head in disbelief as he watched Julia thrown against the kitchen wall by an invisible force. His head spinning with painful memories of watching Jess burning alive and what little he knew of how his mother had died, Sam could feel tears stinging his eyes.
"I wanted you to see this, Sammy." The demon explained icily, its smile widening. "Wanted you to know that there is nothing you can do to prevent your destiny."
"What?" Sam gasped.
"You will understand."
"Understand what?" Sam demanded angrily, "That I'll become something like you? I'd rather die!" He spat, clutching Thomas against him as his sudden fury scared the child and made his crying louder.
"That would be a great loss."
Sam groaned and his eyes moved to Julia, watching in horror as she was slowly lifted and began to slide up the wall. "No …" Sam husked, shaking his head slowly. "Please … what do you want from me?"
"Nothing." Came the amused reply. "Yet."
"Thomas!" The tight grip on Julia's throat was suddenly released and she screamed, holding her arms out towards her son. "Don't hurt him! Don't hurt my baby!"
The demon laughed suddenly and looked up at her as she began to move from the top of the kitchen wall and out across the ceiling, scratching her fingers into the plaster as she tried to stop herself. "Oh, I'm not going to do anything to little Tommy." He assured evenly, "He's going to be just fine."
Julia stared down at them in horror and sobbed loudly, her tears dropping from her eyes. She then clutched at her abdomen and gave an ear-splitting scream.
"No!" Sam sobbed, holding Thomas tightly. He then made a leap for the door and cried out in protest as he slammed into an invisible barrier. Looking back, he saw the demon watching him in amusement and then noticed the sudden brightening of his yellow eyes. Pain filled Sam's head and his knees buckled. It was all he could do to hold tightly to the baby as he sank to the floor and hung his head, gasping for breath.
And then there was the loud crash of the glass panel in the back door shattering. Feeling sharp splinters of glass tapping against his back, Sam ducked further down and cradled Thomas protectively.
Sam could hear faint shouting beyond the white hot agony that filled his mind and was aware of someone pushing past him. Unable to lift his head due to the pain and barely aware of what was happening around him, Sam held on tightly to the wailing child and prayed that it would all be over.
And suddenly it was. The pain vanished and the silence that hung in the large kitchen was broken only by the continued whimpering of the baby. Suddenly realizing that he might be holding the child a little too tightly, Sam let Thomas lean back a little from him and looked down into his flushed face.
Thomas hiccuped a last few sobs and watched Sam through his tears. Slowly the boy smiled and gave a short, nervous giggle. Sam could not help but smile in response and then lifted his head.
"Sam!" Bobby hurried over to Sam and quickly checked he was unharmed.
Looking around, Sam saw Carlos lying unmoving on the kitchen floor and then his eyes fell on Julia. She was slumped against the kitchen wall, clutching at her bleeding abdomen and sobbing quietly. Sam quickly got to his feet and was grateful for Bobby's support as he staggered dizzily across the kitchen.
"Julia?" Sam urged, kneeling beside her.
Julia's face was tight with pain and she slowly opened her eyes to look at Sam. A thousand questions filled her face and she then began to cry harder as she looked down at her son.
"He's okay." Sam urged quickly, turning Thomas to face her. The boy squealed in delight and held out his arms towards his mother. Sam moved closer and held Thomas out in front of him. He swallowed back tears as he watched Julia lift a bloodstained hand to touch her son's face and then leaned her head against his hands.
Aware of movement in the hall beside the kitchen, Sam then looked up and frowned in confusion.
"She's lost a lot of blood." The woman explained urgently into the phone as she walked into the kitchen. "Please hurry!" She ended the call and crouched down beside Julia. "An ambulance is coming." She assured gently, stroking her hand across Julia's cheek. "Hold on, okay?" Looking up, she then smiled in greeting and nodded slightly. "Hey, Sam."
"Mina?" Sam managed, staring at her in surprise.
"Come on." Bobby stood and grabbed Sam's shoulder, urging him to do the same. "We need to clear this up and get out of here before the cops arrive."
Sam nodded and then paused as he looked down at the baby he still held.
"Here." Mina held out her hands and nodded eagerly. "I'll stay with Julia."
"But - "
"It'll be fine, Sam." She urged, "Go!"
Rubbing at his temples and groaning wearily, Sam leaned his head back against the soft leather seat. He then opened his eyes and turned to look up at Bobby. "So … tell me again … what happened?"
Bobby kept his focus on the emergency service personnel hurrying back and forth from the house and shrugged his shoulders. "Not a lot, actually." He frowned as he watched the CSI unit arrive and then saw the paramedics wheeling Julia out to the ambulance.
Sam lifted his head and peered through the trees they had parked behind, seeing the neighbors gathering across the street from the house and the police surrounding the property in a makeshift wall of yellow tape.
"Sorry we nearly trapped you in there with that thing." Bobby offered quietly.
Sam recalled the salt barrier and nodded slowly.
"We had to clear a quick gap so it could get out. Damned thing took one look at that black arrow and fled."
"I had no idea …" Sam closed his eyes and sighed heavily. "God … poor Carlos …"
Bobby mumbled in agreement and watched the two police officers that then emerged from the house. He sat forward in interest and saw the woman that followed them out to the patrol car. Un-cuffed and being offered gentle support from the officers, he could see Mina wipe her eyes with a tissue and she nodded as she climbed into the back of the patrol car.
"Looks like they bought it …" Sam ventured quietly.
"It would be hard not to." Bobby shrugged, "They've got a murder weapon, an assailant and a witness. Although, why it killed Carlos …" He shivered as he remembered watching the hunter's neck being snapped. "I've never known that before."
"Who knows what's behind anything that evil bastard does." Sam husked, "Maybe it was revenge because Carlos helped us kill the demon in New York." He shuddered and rubbed his hands over his face. "Man … we so thought it was over with …"
"Mmm." Bobby sympathized quietly.
Looking up at him, Sam saw the sadness in Bobby's face and yawned wearily. "At least you saved Julia."
"We did, didn't we …" Bobby agreed quietly and then turned the ignition, hearing the Impala roar into life. He could not hide his smile as he listened to the engine for a moment and then eased the car into reverse, turning away from the house and heading back out into the town.
Joining the main highway, Bobby settled back against the seat with a contented sigh and pressed his foot on the gas, enjoying the roar of power and the pull of the acceleration. Smiling happily, he then eased back to a slower cruise along the road and glanced at Sam.
"Don't worry." Sam snuggled further down in the seat and closed his eyes. "It'll be our secret."
Four weeks later …
Wringing out the shammy and sighing heavily, Sam stood up straight and arched his back. He pressed his hands into his aching muscles and gave a weary groan.
"You missed a bit."
Spinning round and throwing the shammy, Sam watched the wet leather slap across his brother's face and smiled merrily.
Peeling away the damp cloth, Dean eased himself down the steps with his crutches and ambled closer to the gleaming car.
"Well?" Sam urged, taking the shammy back and crouching down to wipe the last of the water from the Impala's front fender.
Dean leaned heavily on his crutches and nodded in approval. "Good job, Sammy." He reached into his pocket and flicked a coin at his brother.
Sam caught the coin and laughed loudly. "A quarter?" He gasped, looking up at Dean in horror. "What the fuck?" He indicated the shining black bodywork and his smile grew.
"A quarter," Dean nodded firmly, "Is your change from the cost of the front bumper."
Sam gaped in open-mouthed shock and threw down the shammy.
"$249.75." Dean shrugged, "Including tax and labor costs."
"Bobby fixed it!" Sam argued, laughing in disbelief.
"And that's what he would have charged." Dean smiled and shrugged as he moved a little closer. "If it wasn't us."
"Oh, right." Sam chuckled and regarded his brother in interest. "You're kidding, right?"
"Yeah." Dean's smile grew. "But I nearly had you."
"No, you didn't."
"I so did."
"What is this? First grade?" Sam groaned and reached down to pick up the leather cloth from the soggy grass beside the car.
Dean laughed softly and peered inside the car. "She could do with a vacuum, too."
Watching his brother shake his head in dismay, Dean's smile faltered and he chewed on his bottom lip in thought. "Seriously. Thanks for cleaning her, dude."
"You're welcome." Sam shrugged, "It was me that caked her in mud, after all."
"And got her stuck."
"Yeah, yeah." Sam laughed softly, "And broke the fender off. Dude, I've already apologized a thousand times." He wiped his forehead with the back of his arm and sighed loudly.
Dean nodded quietly and gazed inside the car.
"Hey …" Sam stepped into his brother's view and waved his hand in front of Dean's face. "It's okay, dude. She's all better."
Dean smiled thinly and closed his eyes.
"Dean?" Sam was suddenly serious and placed his hand on Dean's arm. "What is it?"
"I … um …" Dean gave a short laugh and then shook his head, keeping his gaze away from his brother's worried face. He then took a deep breath and forced out what was troubling him. "I don't like you hunting alone."
Nodding slowly, Sam considered this for a moment and then dragged his hand through his hair. "Dean … it was a deer, okay … just a deer. I had to swerve and - "
"Oh god, Sam. I don't mean the car!" Dean husked, his voice tight. "I just - " He looked down and sighed loudly. "I just can't lose you, okay?"
Sam smiled and was about to argue when he then saw Dean's lips trembling and he held back his initial retort.
"That son-of-a-bitch is still out there, Sammy ..." Dean continued, chancing a quick glance up at his brother's face and instantly swallowing back tears.
Sam frowned and watched his brother's shoulders shaking. Stepping closer, he threw his arms around Dean and hugged him against him.
Getting his balance on his crutches, Dean let go one hand and placed it on Sam's back. Resting his head against Sam's shoulder, he forgot his usual reservations and leaned further into the embrace.
Sam could feel his brother sagging against him and adjusted his footing, supporting Dean's weight. Enjoying the closeness, he then tried to remember the last time he had hugged his big brother and was sure it had not been since they were children.
"God, I thought I told you once … no chick-flick moments." Dean offered quietly and began to push back from his brother.
Sam laughed in agreement and helped Dean stand back up straight. He then saw him wince and moved back to open the passenger door of the Impala. Guiding his brother towards the car, he helped him sit down and watched as he stretched out his weary, uninjured leg.
"I'm so tired …"
Sam shoved his hands into his jeans pockets and cleared his throat. "Hence your lack of defense against a manly embrace."
Dean laughed eagerly, "And you ever tell anyone I hugged you and - "
"I know, I know." Sam waved dismissively, "You'll kill me." He saw the pain that crossed Dean's face and winced in regret. He crouched down and placed his hand on the back of his neck, running his fingers under the collar of his shirt and pulling the damp cotton away from his skin.
Sam looked up and saw the concern on Dean's face. He quickly pulled his hand free and straightened his collar.
"Dude." Dean urged sternly.
"It's nothing." Sam insisted. "Just leave it."
"No way, dude." Dean frowned, "That looks nasty." He leaned forward and pulled Sam's collar aside to take a closer look at the old oval scarring. "Dude, that's a bite!"
"I know." Sam rolled back to sit on the grass and rested his arms on his raised knees.
Sam paused and studied his hands for a moment. "She was dying, Dean …" He husked, "I had no choice …"
Dean took a second to absorb what his brother was telling him and thought back to what little he knew of the fight with the demon and all that had occurred in the aftermath. It made sense to him now why Mina had been so determined that she had to leave and he closed his eyes.
"I'm okay, Dean …" Sam offered carefully. "So is she, more to the point."
Looking back up at his brother and apparently about to object, Dean saw Sam raise his hand to stop him and watched as Sam shook his head slowly.
"It's in the past, okay …? It doesn't matter." Sam said calmly.
Watching the questions that crossed Dean's face, Sam's smile grew and he nodded slowly. "She looked good last month, bro."
"Yeah." Sam relaxed his legs and leaned back on his hands. "I don't know where she'd been or what she'd been doing." He laughed and shook his head, "But I'm glad she was there."
"Didn't you say that she had sensed that something was going to happen." Dean offered, "You don't think she's - "
"Like me?" Sam surmised, raising his eyebrows in interest. "I don't know …" He then sighed and smiled up at his brother. "Man … it would even up the odds, wouldn't it?" He saw Dean scoff at the thought and gave another smile. "Oh, you'll be back out there, man. Just give it time."
"Yeah, I know." Dean agreed and then shrugged off the melancholy that had weighed down his shoulders. "Okay, that's more than enough of this crap."
Sam checked his watch and grinned in surprise.
"Shut up." Dean grinned and held up his hands. "Get me up."
Getting to his feet, Sam decided against making any comment regarding Dean actually asking for help and grabbed his hands to pull him up onto his good leg. "I need a beer." He commented as he watched his brother steady himself and balance on his crutches.
"I'm so there." Dean smiled and followed Sam into the roadhouse.
Ellen switched off the lights behind the bar and placed a fresh bottle of whiskey on the table amid the merry group. She smiled as she watched the four of them laughing happily and waved goodnight before heading from the main saloon.
"No!" Jo held up her hand and shook her head firmly. "No more!"
Ash shrugged and held the open bottle towards Sam, smiling as he watched him hold up his shot-glass. "My man …" Ash grinned and filled the glass. "Dean?" He then inquired.
"Not for me." Dean replied, shaking his head. "I'm with Jo on this one."
Jo lifted her hand towards him and laughed as he slapped her palm.
"Lightweights." Ash sighed and knocked his whiskey shot back in one gulp. He slammed the glass down on the table and smiled happily.
Sam sipped at his drink and grimaced, placing the glass back down quickly. "Or maybe not …" He closed his eyes and slapped his hand against his chest. "Oh god. I think those burritos are gonna make a second appearance."
"Don't!" Dean winced, "Please!"
Sam gave a loud burp and raised his arms in the air in celebration. He then jumped as Jo burped even louder and grinned at him in triumph.
"Dude!" Dean declared in delight, "Where the fuck did that come from?"
Jo laughed and leaned her arms on the table. "Poker, shooting, drinking, you name it … I can best any man who walks through that door!"
"Really …?" Dean grinned and frowned in thought, "I'll get back to you on that one."
Jo gasped eagerly, "Bring it on, 'Long John'!" She sat up straight and nodded confidently, "The last person to challenge me was - " She turned to Ash and sniggered as she saw he had slumped forward, his face on the table. "No way!" Jo giggled, "And he calls us lightweights!" Leaning towards him, she nudged his arm and got no response. "Hey! Ash!" Jo slammed her fist on the table and laughed louder as the glasses jumped but Ash remained still.
Dean flinched as Jo slapped the table and saw his brother do the same. He laughed and pressed his hand to his head, "Man, we are so gonna regret this in the morning."
"Yeah …" Sam agreed quietly, frowning as he hung his head and closed his eyes. "Shit …"
"Sam?" Dean carefully lifted his bandaged leg down from the chair beside him and moved closer to his brother, frowning as he heard Sam groan in pain. "Is it - ?"
"Yeah." Sam husked, doubling over and clutching at his head.
Jo's merriment faded instantly and she got to her feet. "What can we do?"
"Nothing!" Sam hissed between his clenched teeth and rested his forehead against the edge of the table. "Except … maybe a bucket."
Jo gasped and hurried behind the bar to grab a plastic overflow tray. She ran back to the table and slid it on the floor in front of him.
"Jeez …" Sam sighed and relaxed slightly. "You'd think a shit-load of alcohol would numb it a little …"
Dean groaned in sympathy and watched Sam slowly sit back upright. "What did you see?"
Sam gave another loud sigh, "We're gonna need some coffee."
"I'm on it!" Jo declared and hurried to the kitchen.
"It was him …" Sam closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm sure of it."
"What?" Dean stared at his brother in horror and watched as Sam looked back up and nodded slowly. "No." Dean breathed, "Not us. Not this time."
Sam turned to him and paused in uncertainty.
"Someone else can go." Dean urged, "Or leave it completely. I'm not letting him have another pop at you, Sam. No."
"You're right." Sam nodded and suddenly frowned, looking past Dean and peering into the darker corner of the saloon. "But … then again …"
Sam smiled and relaxed back against his chair. "We do have a powerful weapon that we know can bring that mother-fucker down."
"What?" Dean frowned.
Startled, Dean spun and his frown fell away as he saw her step from the shadows. He watched her in silence as she continued towards them, feeling his heart racing as he gradually absorbed the fact that she was really there.
Mina walked over to Dean and paused for a moment. She then nodded in greeting and bent down to place a gentle kiss on his forehead. Watching him close his eyes and lift his head up to her, she pressed her lips against his mouth and moaned slightly. "I missed you …" She whispered against his lips and placed her hand on his cheek.
"Yeah …" Dean agreed under his breath, leaning into her touch.
Mina moved back from him and smiled as he opened his eyes and gazed up at her. "Hey, Sam." She chuckled suddenly and stood up straight.
"Hey." Sam waved in amusement and grinned at his stunned but very pleased older brother.
"It's good to see you again." Mina nodded, placing her hand on Dean's arm and, sensing him lift his hand, trailing her fingers along to grasp his fingers.
Dean watched the pair of them exchange a small nod and laced his fingers through hers, feeling a weight lifting from his shoulders as she stood close to him. "So." He watched her sit down beside him, a smile dancing on his lips as he absorbed the fact that she was really there. Seeing her look down at the slumped form of Ash lying over the edge of the table, he sniggered and shrugged his shoulders. "I'll introduce you when he regains consciousness."
"Okay," Mina agreed in amusement.
"Man, this is a good surprise …" Dean shook his head in wonder and studied her face for a moment. "Where have you been?"
Dean grinned and shook his head.
"Well …" Mina glanced quickly at Sam and her smile faltered. "Here and there … but … for the past week I've been at Bobby's."
"What?" Dean gasped, looking to Sam for confirmation.
Sam shrugged and nodded slowly. "Seems Bobby knew Mina's grandfather …" He saw the confusion in his brother's eyes and smiled a quick apology.
"I needed time." Mina explained, giving Dean's hand a gentle squeeze and watching him turn back to her. "There's so much I didn't know … about my family … about me …" She laughed softly and shook her head, "About how to resist the urge to feed …"
Dean frowned and watched her in uncertainty.
"It's okay." Mina urged, giving another gentle laugh and taking his hand in both of hers.
Dean wanted to ask so many questions and his head was spinning. Then he remembered the conversation he had been having with his brother and turned to Sam. "So … this weapon. It's the black arrow, right?"
"Kind of." Sam smiled, looking over at Mina.
Dean followed his brother's gaze and saw Mina frowning in thought. "Technically …" She grabbed the bottle of whiskey and took a long swig, grimacing as the liquid burned her throat. She then licked her lips, smiling as she looked back over at him and gave a small shrug.
"What?" Dean urged, "I don't get it. What do we have that will kill that son-of-a-bitch?"
Mina glanced at Sam and saw him give a small nod of reassurance. She looked back at Dean and her own smile grew. "Me."